Saturday, February 13, 2021

In My Lifetime

On this date in 1960 (I was just about 5 months old), Black college students in downtown Nashville began sitting in at lunch counters, part of a nonviolent direct action campaign to end racial segregation.

This sign that was put up during one of those actions, among the many images of similar scenes, caught my attention:

Whoever owned this fountain (Woolworth's? McCrory's? McClellans?)* felt it necessary not just to close it but to make a sign saying the area was closed in the interest of public safety

When actually it was in the interest of upholding the order of things as they were, the order of white supremacy. But scaring people through a loss of "order" is one of the main tools in the toolbox of white supremacy, so the sign makes perfect sense.

The Nashville sit-ins — which included John Lewis, who was then a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary, and Diane Nash, who was a student at Fisk University — were inspired by similar sit-ins that had started on February 1 at the Woolworth's in Greensboro, N.C. The Greensboro building is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.


*After writing this I found out the photo is from a Walgreen's.


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